Russian History And Politics
Russia, the world’s largest country, was formerly the dominant republic of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR, but since the union’s dissolution in December 1991, it is now an independent country and an influential member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (Russia pp).
Russia is sparsely populated with the densest population in the European part of the country, the Ural Mountain area, and in the Southeastern part of Siberia (Russia pp). There are more than 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples that call the Russian Federation home, approximately 80% is ethnically Russian, 3.8% Tatar, 2% Ukrainian, 1.2% Bashkir, 1.1% Chuvash, 0.9% Chechen, 0.8% Armenian, and the remainder of roughly 10% includes, Mordvins, Belarusians, Georgians, Avars, Kazakhs, Udmurts, Azerbaijanis, Maris, Germans, Evenks, Ingushes, Inuit, Kalmyks, Karelians, Koreans, Ossetians, Dolgan Nenetses, Tuvans, Yakuts and several others (Russia pp). Although Russian is the only official state language, the individual republics have their own native language as well (Russia pp). The dominant Christian religion is the Russian Orthodox Church, however there are various Protestant faiths, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Roman Catholicism (Russia pp).
The Russian Federation consists of numerous federal subjects, making a total of eighty-nine constituent components (Russia pp). Twenty-one republics enjoy a high degree of autonomy that correspond to some of Russia’s ethnic minorities, with the remaining territory consisting of forty-nine oblasts or provinces and six krais or territories, which have ten autonomous okrugs or autonomous districts and one autonomous oblast (Russia pp). Then there are two federal cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, and seven federal districts, four in Europe and three in Asia, have recently been added (Russia pp).
The Russian Civil War was fought between 1918 and 1922, and by the close of war, which claimed an estimated nine million lives, Soviet Russia was exhausted, especially after the droughts of 1920 and 1921, and unable to run the economy on sufficient scale (Russia pp). Russia eventually recovered and experienced rapid economic growth during the 1930’s, however the effect of World War I together with the Civil War left a scar on its society and permanent effects on the regime (Russia pp).
Vladimir Lenin, who led the Bolshevik faction of Communists that later became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, CPSU, became the first leader of the Soviet Union (Russia pp). Lenin banned factions within the party and argued that the party should be an “elite body of professional revolutionists” who dedicated their lives to the cause, and put loyal party activists in charge of new and old political institutions, army units, factories, hospitals, universities, and food suppliers (Russia pp). On December 29, 1922, the Transcaucasian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic, and the Byelorussian and Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republics sign a Treaty of Creation of the U.S.S.R. (Russia pp). The Soviet New Economic Policy, 1921-1929, was essentially a period of market socialism (Russia pp). Upon Lenin’s death in 1924, Joseph Stalin came to power, molding the features that characterized the new Soviet regime, with policies based on Marxist-Leninist ideology, which is often considered to represent a political and economic system called Stalinism (Russia pp). During the 1920’s, Stalin consolidated his authority with the Great Purge, which was a period of severe repression that peaked in 1937 (Russia pp).
After Stalin’s death in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev became the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and Georgi Malenkov as Premier of the Soviet Union (Russia pp). Under this new leadership, an amnesty was declared for some who were serving prison sentences for criminal offices, price cuts were announced, and a relaxation of restrictions on private plots, ending the role of large-scale forced labor in the economy (Russia pp). From 1958 to 1964, Khrushchev was also the Premier of the Soviet Union (Russia pp).
The ten years following Stalin’s death saw the reassertion of political power over the means of coercion, thus the party became the dominant institution over the secret police and army (Russia pp). Aid to developing countries, scientific research, space technology and weaponry, maintained the Soviet Union as one of the world’s two major world powers (Russia pp).
In 1964, CPSU First Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and Premier Aleksei Kosygin became the most influential cadres in the new collective leadership (Russia pp). The government improved living standards by doubling urban wages and raising rural wages by seventy-five percent, building millions of one-family apartments, and manufacturing large quantities of consumer goods and home appliances (Russia pp). Industrial output increased by seventy-five percent and the country became the world” largest producer of oil and steel (Russia pp). In fact, the twenty years following Stalin’s death were the best period in history for the ordinary citizen in terms of living standards, stability and peace (Russia pp).
During the 1970’s, momentum for economic and political reform stalled until the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev in the mid- 1980’s, who ushered in the process that led to the political collapse of the Soviet Union and the dismantling of the Soviet administration command economy through the programs of glasnost, political openness, perestroika, economic restructuring, and uskorenie, speed-up of economic development (Russia pp). Through the fall of 1991, the Russian government took over the union government, ministry by ministry, and by November 1991, Russian President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree banning the Communist Party of the Soviet Union throughout the Russian republic (Russia pp).
When Yeltsin resigned in December 1999, he appointed Vladimir Putin the second President of the Russian Federation (Russia pp). Putin won the election a few months later, and was re-elected in March 2004 (Russia pp). Although often criticized as an autocrat, Putin’s relationships with President Bush and most European leaders appear to be friendly (Russia pp).
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